Aspirin: ‘Possible link’ with rare brain damage illness in children – NHS advice

AstraZeneca: Aspirin is 'probably more dangerous' says expert

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Low-dose aspirin, a blood thinning medicine, isn’t suitable for certain people. Nonetheless, most people aged 16 or over can safely take low-dose aspirin if their doctor recommends it.

There is “a possible link” between aspirin and Reye’s syndrome in children, according to the NHS.

Reye’s syndrome is a very rare illness that can cause serious liver and brain damage.

If it is not immediately treated, it may be fatal.

Reye’s syndrome mainly affects children and young adults under 20 years of age.

Initial symptoms can include, repeatedly being sick, tiredness and fits.

As the condition progresses, the symptoms may get more severe and can include confusion that’s sometimes associated with hallucinations.

The exact cause of Reye’s syndrome is unknown, but it most commonly affects children and young adults recovering from a viral infection, such as a cold, flu or chickenpox.

In a lot of cases aspirin has been used to treat their symptoms, which is why it is thought aspirin may trigger Reye’s syndrome.

So if after having a cold, flu or chickenpox, your child is showing these symptoms, report them to their GP.

Tell your GP if your child has taken aspirin, but even if your child has not taken aspirin, Reye’s syndrome needs to be ruled out.

In Reye’s syndrome, it’s thought that tiny structures within the cells called mitochondria become damaged. Mitochondria are important for the healthy functioning of the liver.

If the liver loses its energy supply, it begins to fail. This can cause a dangerous build-up of toxic chemicals in the blood, which can damage the entire body and can cause the brain to swell.

Although Reye’s syndrome is serious, the majority of children and young adults who develop it will survive, and some will make a full recovery, according to the NHS.

Moreover, even though a number of studies suggest a link between the development of Reye’s syndrome and the use of aspirin, it has not been proven to be the sole cause, according to The National Reye’s Syndrome Foundation UK charity.

“These studies did not prove that aspirin is the only cause of Reye’s syndrome but showed that it can precipitate it in the presence of other factors such as a viral infection and possibly some innate susceptibility,” the website states.

Because there are alternatives, there is no need to use aspirin for feverish illnesses in childhood, the charity says.

Treatment aims to minimise the symptoms and support the body’s vital functions, such as breathing and blood circulation.

It is also essential to protect the brain against permanent damage that can be caused by the brain swelling.

In adults, low dose aspirin may be suggested if you have had a stroke or a heart attack to help stop you having another one.

For adults, aspirin is also an everyday painkiller for aches and pains such as headache, toothache and period pain.

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